By WMM Guest Contributor: Tierney Konitzer
“She’s learning from you.”– a sentence a new mom might want to hear about her daughter. At 20 months old, my daughter Rose is polite, kind, caring and has totally normal 2-year-old tantrums.
But this isn’t a sentence I want to hear. People in my support circle think my daughter is learning anxiety from me. Yep, apparently, I am teaching my daughter how to be anxious. <insert blow to the stomach here>
After hearing this for the second time in two days, I needed all my strength to hold it together. I not so nicely told my family member to kick rocks (literally what I said) and went about my day. When I found a moment alone, away from all eyes, especially those of my impressionable daughter, I broke down. I cried as hard as I could remember having ever cried (but as silently as possible). It felt like I was going to cry forever. Am I really damaging my child? Am I really inflicting this awful pain onto her? Is she really learning this from me at only 20 months old? How could I do this to her. How dare I do this to her! I am a horrible mother. What is wrong with me?
What in the…
I AM NOT TEACHING HER HOW TO BE ANXIOUS! Stand up mama, wipe those tears from your face. I am not teaching her how to be anxious. I am not causing her depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, ADD, ADHD nor any of the other clinical diagnoses out there. Yes, there is a “nurture” trigger to most of these, but there is also a genetic predisposition. Anxiety is genetic and VERY COMMON. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders worldwide”. One in 13 people suffer globally from anxiety. One in 13! It might be my fault that she is displaying some anxious signs, I will take the blame. The genetic blame. But it is most certainly not because she has seen me have a panic attack or two. No matter how hard I fight it, sometimes I fall to the ground, I cry and I panic even more because she is there.
Know what she does?
She climbs in my lap. Says “Mama,” in the sweetest voice. She kisses my face and hugs me tight. The fastest a panic attack has ever stopped is when this happened for the first time. Because for once someone didn’t stare at me. Didn’t yell at me. Didn’t tell me I was wrong, or stupid or over-dramatic. For once, a human (a tiny, little human), showed me love and empathy in my time of need.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I still try my hardest to not break down in front of her. But I am human. A human who fights every day to seem “normal”. A fight that is so exhausting sometimes I just can’t fight any more. And I am sure there are some of you out there that think I am horrible and just the worst mom ever. And you keep thinking that…
But to the mom who is like me. Who struggles to feel good enough even on her best day. Who breaks down in front of her child(ren) even though she doesn’t want to. Who hates herself after it happens. Who wonders why she is mom because she is so bad. Your Child(ren) love you unconditionally. They don’t think anything is wrong with you. You are perfect in their eyes. You stand up, mama. You hear me? Stand up. Give those babies of yours a hug. Kiss them. And EXPLAIN what happened. They will learn so much more from that explanation. They will learn that, in their darkest hours (whatever they will be), they are not alone. They will learn how to stand up and keep moving forward.
If you ask me, I would rather teach my daughter strength through my own struggles and pain then ever let her think she is alone when she faces her own.
Parenting with a mental condition like anxiety, or any of the others mentioned previously, is HARD!!!!! We are stronger for it. Our children are stronger for it.
Who is standing tall with me?
Note: I spoke with my support circle and helped educate them on parenting and simply living with anxiety. Using this painful situation as an opportunity to bring us all to a better place.